Architecture has been defined in many ways—by the dictionary and by various authorities. However, one description that readily comes to mind was a definition I first heard about two decades ago when I took my first design class in my sophomore year of college at Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria. “Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings and nonbuilding structures,” and this is the definition and meaning that has resonated with me over these years. In most descriptions of Architecture that I’ve come across, two words have almost steadily appeared in most of the architecture descriptions—Art and Design.
“Architecture is the art and science of designing buildings and nonbuilding structures.” ― Sophomore Year Class Note, School of Architecture, Abia State University.
Contextually speaking, the subject of design is described as creating a construction plan. On the other hand, art is defined as the conscious use of creative imagination in the production of beautiful objects. However, in the interpretation of both designations, the words “creation” and “creativity” appear. Creation is “the act of producing or causing to exist.” Creativity is “the state or quality of having the power of causing to come into being.” They are the same thing. Hence, underscoring the importance of creativity is a “skill” for design and architecture. Creativity pushes architects to think outside the box when it comes to designing creative and functional spaces.
Architecture as a professional or subject reflects the art, culture, perception, character, and story of a people captured in time and space reflected in buildings and other infrastructures. Fundamental to this is the use of materials and form patterns to tell a story. Deep thinking Architects with passion and zeal know that the impact of their design goes beyond building houses. These houses shape our mood, thoughts, actions, and general development either positively or negatively. It is astonishing to think that the simple placement of shapes and forms, a mere play of light and shade, can spark and act as a catalyst for change in our lives. Architecture is an agent of change. As the saying goes, “change is the only constant in life.” Architecture is a compelling contrivance that can deliver change.
Ancient Roman Architecture is an example of how Architecture can change a nation and indeed the world. Although the Roman Empire is now ended, one can still see how this empire shaped almost all of Europe through its arts, architecture, and engineering. Roman architecture borrowed a lot of its concepts from the Egyptians, Greeks, and Persia. The introduction of concrete by ancient Rome ushered in a new way of design for Architects and a new way of building for builders and construction engineers—then and now. With the discovery of concrete, architects would begin to work infrastructural wonders, bringing about a dynamic change in the world of architectural design and building.
Concrete was stronger than marble, and it could be shaped when wet and reinforced with other materials such as steel or iron. This allowed the Romans to build wider spanned ornamental domes and arches. Although used by Greek, Arches were first used by the Romans to support their underground drainages. They were also used as decorative ornamentations referred to as triumphal arches. Dotted throughout modern-day Europe, these were used to celebrate important events. Some examples of Roman structures built with their early form of concrete (i.e., pozzolana cement) were the Appian Way, Roman baths, the Coliseum and Pantheon in Rome, and the Pont du Gard aqueduct in southern France.
Without the creative ideas of Ancient Roman Architects (e.g., Apollodorus of Damascus, Argelius, Lucius Cocceius Auctus, Decriannus, Hyginus Gromaticus, Heracleides, Hermodorus of Salamis, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, etc.), our concept for the modern society—as experienced through arts and architecture—would not exist. These architects went the extra mile to shape the then Roman Empire, but they also influenced and still influenced our concept and understanding of architecture and functional society. From the ruins of Palmyra in Syria to the Amphitheatre of El Djem in Tunisia, the Diocletian’s Palace in Croatia, the Tower of Hercules in Spain, to mention but a few. There is hardly any modern-day Architectural design or concepts that do not incorporate—at some level—concepts, elements, or materials from the ancient Roman Empire.
The instrumentality of architecture as an agent of change and a major contributing factor to nation-building cannot be overemphasized. Architecture can transform society; it can give a nation its national identity. A country that embraces Architecture as a tool for change is seen on a grand scale as progressive. We can see a modern-day example of architecture as an agent of change in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai and Abu Dhabi are typical examples of the progressive use of architecture as an urbanization tool to transform the constituent Emirates of the UAE.
In the nineteen sixties, Dubai was a small fishing community. It was also a trade route between Oman and Iraq. The architecture of that era adapted well to its harsh arid climatic conditions characterized by high temperatures, high humidity, and low rainfalls. To adapt to the arid nature of that geographic location, walls are built thicker. Alleyways and walkways connect buildings. Courtyards with water bodies were used to accentuate architectural designs. The builders constructed wind towers and exterior windows where few—the use of indirect windows to tackle dust-laden winds became the norm. These characterizations helped keep houses chill and free of dust.
In the nineteen seventies, a combination of the oil boom, sophisticated technology, and visionary leadership saw a change in infrastructural development. During this time, the foundation for what is now known as modern-day Dubai was laid. Abu Dhabi, the capital, and the other five Emirates are not far behind. This new architecture displays a combination of tradition and advanced technology. The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque (Abu Dhabi), the Burj Khalifa (Dubai), Burj Al Arab Hotel (Dubai), the Emirates Palace (Abu Dhabi), the Landmark (Abu Dhabi), Etihad Towers (Abu Dhabi), Palm Island (Dubai), to mention a few, are architectural masterpieces that have changed the skyline of the UAE. The UAE has found their voice, and the instrument of choice for expressing themselves is its architecture.
“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” — Frank Gehry.
Architecture is the iconic tool that the UAE is using to show its urbanized progressiveness and futuristic development. Let us go on a photo journey and see some of these architectural masterpieces that the UAE is using to express itself:
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE, is an architectural marvel. The Founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s eclectic vision of the mosque, assimilates architectural styles from different Muslim civilizations.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE
The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE is globally iconic—an architectural masterpiece and solid science work. The building stands at over 828 meters (2716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories high. It is the tallest building in the world.
Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai, UAE
The Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai, UAE, is a breathtaking architectural masterpiece under the Jumeirah hotel group’s management. It remains one of the tallest hotels in the world and stands on an artificial island. The building resembles the sail of a ship.
Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, UAE, is a resort of outstanding elegance with a private beach and marina. Its stunning Arabian interiors are grand and effuses opulence. British architect John Elliott, RIBA, designed this 7-star hotel edifice.
The Landmark, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Landmark, Abu Dhabi, UAE stands as a stalwart landmark in its own architectonic right. Standing as the 114th tallest building globally, the 23rd in the Middle East, the 21st in the UAE, and the 3rd in Abu Dhabi. The Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects designed this iconic landmark.
Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE, is an architectural landmark and statement of great sophistication. It is an emblem of Abu Dhabi’s nationhood. It has five towers that shoulders accommodations, retail, offices, restaurants, hotels, gardens, etc. This sculptural feat is a product of the Australian Architects DBI Design.
Palm Island, Dubai, UAE
The Palm Island, Dubai, UAE are three artificial islands constructed on the Dubai coast in UAE. These three islands—the Palm Jumeirah, Deira Islands (Arabic: جزر ديرة), and Palm Jebel Ali (Arabic:نخلة جبل علي), remain some of the most ambitious engineering projects ever initiated.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said that “Architecture is always the will of the age conceived as space—nothing else. Until this simple truth is clearly recognized, the struggle over the foundation of a new architecture confident in its aims and powerful in its impact cannot be realized; until then, it is destined to remain a chaos of uncoordinated forces.” Mies was saying that “…the will of the age… nothing else” is what makes the difference. The UAE had a will to become a progressive and near-futuristic society of the age via architecture, and they achieved it. He said here that unless there is clarity of understanding, establishing a new architectural order will struggle. So, there is the need to study and understand the emerging order to establish it. This is where the artist and the scientist in the architect meets.
Architecture—A Tool for Change
Architecture has, and still is, changing nations by amplifying the people’s cultures and values through their built-up environment. One of the fundamental principles of Architecture is the ability to self-correct over time. This scientific method aligns with the principles of evolution—the crystallization of ideas over periods of time. The newer ideas are incorporated into newer designs, thus sparking newer concepts. Architecture as a national change vehicle can be achieved using two primary methods of approach—indirect and direct approach.
In the Indirect Approach, when a client employs an Architect to design a building or buildings, the architect in the ideation state draws on several concepts to forge something that reflects current and emerging trends to appeal to the client’s requirements. If successfully replicated over several projects, this idea or multiple ideas has the potential of creating a new reality, culture, and order. By indirectly replicating concepts and ideas, similar and sometimes dissimilar, the Architect, through his designs, has the potential of setting the foundations for a new or emerging culture, will, or way of life, forever seared in this architecture.
Through the Direct Approach, the architect consciously decides to create a new order toward an envisioned future with the sole purpose of creating a new national identity. This approach involves five principal steps: (a). Documentation; (b) Synthesis and Analysis; (c). Goals and Objectives; (d). The Plan; and (e). Execution and Revision.
The architect determines the current state of the nation by comprehensively documenting various aspects of it. First, by recording the current state of the nation’s physical and social infrastructures (i.e., the physical and social-cultural composition of her people). Second, it’s housing stock and current policies. Third, it’s economic infrastructures. Fourth and lastly, by reporting the nation’s available natural and human resources.
To have a comprehensive and credible picture of these situations, this must be done starting from the grassroots to the government structure’s highest echelons. While people may believe that an architect’s function is limited to buildings alone, on the contrary, architects are heavily involved in urban planning and almost every aspect of planning any built-up environment.
B. Analysis and Synthesis
The post documentation stage involves processing of collated data. Through Analysis, the architect separates the assembled materials into constituent elements that make sense. Through synthesis, the architect combines the constituent analyzed data with new data for a more complex whole that forms the bedrock for future sustainable design. The purpose of doing this is to understand and create a clear and critical path towards a feasible design proposal that is aimed at integrating and harnessing available resources to achieve a goal.
C. Goals & Objectives
This is when the architectural team, or design team, defines what the design process intends to accomplish and how to go about it after sifting through the wealth of synthesized information that has been gathered. Markers will be set up by way of goals and milestones for the life of the design project. At this point, we will break down the big goals into manageable forms. Hence, the goal must be SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
D. The Plan
With the goals and objectives in place, the architect now devices a plan. The plan is a roadmap, a critical path to success drawn up and scheduled by the architect to give guidance for the journey towards the goals and objectives—a pathway towards the architect’s vision. Assignments will be issued at this stage. Checks, balances, and accountability are essential here.
E. Execution and Revision
During the execution or implementation phase, constant revisions and updates are an absolute necessity for this design to succeed. The analysis of all fields follows next, and an update of the original plans happens regularly. At this stage, there will be an assessment of its effects on the initial design. There will also be a need to continually evaluate and reexamine the project as the plan plays out. This is necessary to bring any design plan completion successfully.
“The purpose of architecture, as defined by the architects Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry, is to capture and understand the trends of the times of a people, to forge a better future through design.” — Uzoma Aliche.
As defined by the architects Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry, the purpose of architecture is to capture and understand the trends of the times of a people to forge a better future through design. The difference between the two approaches discussed is their scope. The indirect approach uses architecture and design to influence change on a smaller scale. The direct method is the deliberate use of data to affect change using Architecture on a more grandiose scale. That is what the United Arab Emirates did in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and all the other emirates. They were deliberate in their attempt to use Architecture in revolutionizing their society. However, the principles for creating a functional design are the same for the direct and indirect methods.
Architecture as a vehicle for nation-building aims to integrate the people’s history and cultural heritage with modern trends and technological breakthroughs. Using architecture as an urbanization contrivance amplifies the strengths of society while eliminating its weaknesses. It is a symbolic portrayal of the progressiveness of a nation. The resultant effect is a creative, functional, rejuvenated, and sustainable built environment that shapes and changes its inhabitants’ lives forever. This visionary and futuristic process creates an avalanche of credible data which future generations can use.
The ripple effects of architecture as a platform for national change are endless. We have taken a stroll in time to Rome and seen how Architecture helped shape the then world. We saw the advances that ensued after the discovery of concrete—this was a time for architectural, construction, and engineering advancements—redefining and repositioning the Roman Empire as a vanguard of architectural and technological advancement. We have extensively surveyed the progressive and optimistic outlook for the UAE and its constituent Emirates. The UAE is not letting up—they remain an evolving hub for futuristic designs and unimaginable construction wonders—the share resolution of a people to voice their progressiveness and futuristic output via Architecture and neo-urbanization measures.
“At its most vital, architecture is an agent of change.” — Charles Correa.
In summary, we can say that Architecture can unquestionably change a nation. If you survey most countries that are characterized as advanced, you will notice that remarkable Architectural sundry marvels usually delineate their urban ambiance. Hence, if they are not doing so already, underdeveloped nations should consider deploying architecture as a tool for nation-building. New and efficient architectural designs with reduced negative urban and environmental impact, but improved efficiency and usage increase productivity, improve welfare and wellness, safety, security, and our general well-being. This, of course, leads to the molding of sound minds, which will lead to an improved economic situation and more. Architecture as a tool for nation-building works—understand it, embrace it, utilize it.
6 Ways Architecture Could Improve Humankind’s Dignity
Architecture can improve the dignity of man. Architects, through their designs, can lay the foundation of the society that brings people together. They can achieve this by paying closer attention to the human element—the people—and see them as distinct individuals with unique needs. Architects can help humanity meet those needs via their architectural designs that promote humanity’s dignity. Read all about it.
By extension, architectural designs or built-up spaces’ primary purpose is to support and encourage human social activities. Buildings are to be subservient to the needs of the people who use them. However, this is far from the truth because, in many situations, building users’ input is often not solicited when drawing up architectural plans. Sometimes, even when consulted, proper attention to necessary but straightforward details that one considers common and essential to our everyday living is often left unaddressed.
“Dignity and design are uniquely related… Dignity is to design what justice is to law and health is to medicine. We often overlook the impact that in the simplest of terms it’s about having the spaces you inhabit reflect back your value.” — John Cary.
In a TEDx-organized speech, John Cary talked about “How Architecture can create dignity for all.” He thoroughly exhausted what architecture and design should be to Human Dignity. One quote that summed up how we should experience Architects and their designs should is this: “… Dignity is to design what justice is to law and health is to medicine. We often overlook the impact that, in the simplest of terms, it’s about having the spaces you inhabit reflect back your value…” dignity is “nobility or elevation of character; worthiness.” In other words, the architects’ ability to plan spaces that elevate character and worthiness (i.e., spaces that add value to the individual).
In one of his stories during his talk, he talked about him and his wife in a hospital’s delivery room. As his wife laid on the obstetric table/bed, John describes the color of the wall and mentions the awkward orientation of the obstetric table. He illustrates how a wall clock in the room was positioned above the doorway, in the birthing mom’s direct line of vision as her contractions increase hour after hour. While some may tinker with the relevancy of these small details, his wife assures him thus that “… the last thing a birthing woman would ever want is to watch the seconds tick by…”
Cary told the story that even the nurse working in the bedroom had her own two cents to chime in on their discussion. Without any prompting, she turned to John and his wife and said, “…I always think to myself, I wish I had become an Architect because I could have designed rooms like this better.” The design of the delivery room in this story was uninspiring and badly misaligned with the purpose it was built for, to say the very least. Did the designers of the space put much thought into the psychosocial effect of their layout? Did they not follow the functional directions of the Building Type and Standards? That may have been the case, but it is all up for guessing at this point.
Architects must consider themselves a “tool” for the people’s mind, consciousness, and thoughts. Great architecture must not just focus on the essence of the design. It must attend to the wants, needs, feelings and pay attention to the nonverbal cues (e.g., aura and personality) of the people that will inhabit his design. The capacity to pay attention to psychosocial signals and users’ functional needs and translate them into the design distinguishes an ordinary Architect from a great architect. Architecture can improve the dignity of humankind when the functionality of the built environment becomes a top priority.
However, in today’s world, with a literacy rate of about 86.35%—the highest in the world’s history—it is pretty disheartening to see how our attention span has drastically reduced because of our attraction for glistening objects of little value. Architects are not automatically immune to this trend, as many are now concerned with creating beautiful facades with less emphasis on spaces’ functionality. Over time, there has been an increasing shift away from the core of design—upliftment of humankind and human dignity—to an obsession with creating flashy exteriors at the expense of function and dignity.
The design approach that focuses on the dazzling instead of the functional has eaten deeply into teaching architecture at learning institutions. Nowadays, there is an excessive focus on excessively ornate designs when it comes to rendering and the display of arrogantly striking facades. There is nothing wrong with pushing for highly appealing schemes; however, there must not be an absolute disregard for the individual needs and local conditions of those that will eventually inhabit the buildings. The focus should not be placed on the design’s extreme pleasantness while the essence of the design suffers. We should never relegate the design’s functional spatial arrangement, which is also paramount to the background. There should be a harmonious balance of appeal and functionality of all architectural plans. That is the essence of great architecture that exudes dignity.
“A people must have dignity and identity.” — Andrew Goodman.
Winston Churchill once said that “We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.” No one is immune to faulty designs. The effects and interactions of our built environment remain eternal. The above quote reminds architects of the consequences of design and how it can shape us individually and collectively. It also tells architects how our values should be adequately taken care of by our built-up spaces so that these spaces will enhance and shape our dignity over time. When the Architect places the essence of the design above everything else, the design will organically unravel itself in its’ purest form. In a way, the Architect needs to wear the prophetic hat (i.e., the foretelling or prediction of what is to come) by functionally thinking about the impact of the spaces they conjure from the design screen to the standing form.
6 Ways Architecture Could Improve the Dignity of Mankind
Thus far, we have seen that spaces that architects design has a psychosocial impact on the lives of those that dwell in them. Architects should never design without having functionality screaming at the back of their minds. They can help use spaces to improve the dignity (i.e., nobility or elevation of character; worthiness) of those that inhabit the spaces they design. We have also seen the drift towards ostentatious designs—that is, plans that primarily focus on attracting attention but neglecting functionality. There is nothing wrong with beautiful architecture with jaw-dropping aesthetics. Still, it must not overlook functionality (i.e., having or serving a utilitarian purpose—capable of performing the purpose of its design). Hence, to improve the dignity of humankind through architectural design, here are some key areas to consider:
#1. Gender Sensitivity
These days, for instance, it is the norm to see women stand in line to use the women’s public restroom. It has become so “normal,” or should I say, “casual,” that we no longer see anything wrong with this obvious flaw. It’s not a dignifying perspective to see ladies waiting on an endless queue to use the loo. Such a scenario only displays the designer’s carefree attitude to the comfort of the health and concerns of the gender of the users. Such is just one instance among many others. In other words, architects should pay attention to gender issues and find ways to dignify “gender” with their designs.
#2. Age Conscious
A design should show empathy to children and as well as the elderly. Plans should aim to instill a sense of confidence in the young. It should inspire a sense of trust in them to help and nudge them to explore. Doing so helps in building their psychosocial and motor skills. Designs should not be indifferent to age. Ever been to a 15-story house and the balcony rails’ height is just at the standard 3-feet (36inches or 900mm)? Such a balcony rail height may be a bit clumsy because its size is easily scalable by a curious two-year-old. An inconsiderate design that could quickly spell doom for a youngling, to say the very least. Apart from the young, architecture should also pay attention to the needs of the elderly. Hence, architects need to be conscious of age factors when they are designing.
Housing is one of the three most critical needs of man in conjunction with food and clothing. Even though we live in a cutting-edge era, where technology has seen the most exponential improvements and people own more homes than they would ever need. With an estimated global population of 7.8 billion people, it is shocking to note that 1.6 billion people (about 21%) lack adequate housing. There is nothing less dignifying than the unfortunate aspect of homeless people hopelessly sleeping in the open, exposed to the elements and countless other dangers. Architecture and a combination of reasonable collaborative efforts can restore dignity to the homeless. Achieving this can be done by building functional and affordable spaces that do not cheapen the outcomes of housing millions of homeless people one city at a time. Check out what CNN Hero Chris Stout, via his Veterans Community Project, is doing by providing homes for homeless veterans—salvaging man’s dignity.
#4. Culture and Location
As the world continues to evolve into a global village, more people are beginning to move from their primary places and comfort zone to explore other cultures. The colonial era was when the conqueror or colonizers disregarded the prevailing customs and norms of a people yet sought to foist their traditions on the conquered or colonized without any form of recourse to subsisting cultures. We hope that these times are now behind us—at least, that is our hopes. Nothing was dignifying about such an era. Even though this era may be gone, some of the then tactics and mindset deployed still feature prominently in today’s living. Architects are thoughtlessly borrowing forms, design flows, and spatial matrices from other cultures without considering the proposed location’s cultures and climatic conditions—creating designs with significant disparities with the proposed location.
Concerning accessibility, many changes are happening in this sphere, ranging from enacting city ordinances to ambulatory users of buildings. Although a lot is changing, we can still do more. A good design is of no benefit if it is only accessible to a privileged few. Housing is a fundamental human need, and everyone should have the opportunity of having a space they can call their own—this is dignifying, to say the very least. Hence, we must make all efforts to provide affordable and accessible housing for all—not slums—but dignified and livable homes. Another instance worth mentioning under accessibility is that there are now laws and acts, at least here in the United States of America, that have been put in place to allow for all architectural designs to be handicap accessible—a remarkable move nonetheless. Architects and designers alike should champion this cause in every design regardless of its scope and size. Architecture can improve humankind’s dignity if it seeks to connect with the health and welfare of all.
Value-driven architecture dignifies and uplifts all. Architecture thrives on accessibility, acceptance, and ownership. A good design will always consider its users’ needs—making the users feel valued, respected, seen, and heard. Architects can go a long way in adding value to the lives of the people who live in the designs or buildings they construct. They do so via the architectural design process that goes into the conceptualization of living spaces. Architects, through their designs, can lay the foundation of the society that brings people together. Hence, architects are agents for building value-driven relationships for a more dynamic culture.
Ironically, Mahatma Gandhi once said that “The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law, to the strength of the spirit.” As we have seen in the preceding paragraphs, Architecture can be that vehicle for promoting humankind’s dignity. By adopting the points mentioned above, we can set the new approach in motion. The approach, which is an “obedience to a higher law,” takes into cognizance the multiplicity of the myriad of challenges of today’s world without prejudice. Some of these challenges focus on ethnic or racial differences, urban inequalities, environmental hurdles, and economic disparities. Obeying the “higher law” will hinge on focusing solely on the human element’s common denominator and thinking and acting beyond the challenges. We are all human, and it is dignifying to recognize and respond to helping humanity sans bias.
“The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law, to the strength of the spirit.” — Mahatma Gandhi.
Architects must choose to look closely at how designs will be more community-centered for architecture to improve humanity’s dignity. With this notion in mind, we will have to consider these challenges at a more individualistic level. We must address each issue to improve the relationship between the built environment and the ensuing community it creates—by reducing or eliminating unnecessary thoughtless hurdles. We can achieve such action when Architects begin to re-educate themselves by paying closer attention to the human element—the people—and see them as distinct individuals with unique needs. In this way, architects can design and build mindfully—“to the strength of a new spirit”—this way, societies can be planned/designed and constructed to improve humankind’s dignity.
Architecture According to Uzoma Aliche
Today, Architect Uzoma Aliche has shown his true grit and worth in the field of Architecture, and he is still making himself known to the world through his designs and creative ingenuity.
Uzoma Aliche is a seasoned architect who I became acquainted with in the early summer of 1997 at Abia State University. I remember walking up the rocky slope behind one of the lecture halls at Abia State University, close to the school’s main auditorium. I was making my way to the School of Architecture and Environmental Studies when I bumped into him. We introduced ourselves to each other. I let him know who I was and what I was studying, and he also let me know his name plus his nickname, “Babayaro”—as we fondly called him. My mind quickly went to the former Super Eagles player, Celestine Babayaro. We cracked some jokes about the appellation, and the truth is that Mr. Aliche had some striking resemblance to the soccer icon. By the way, coincidentally, we had come to find out after the exchange of pleasantries that we were in the same studio class in the same course of study—Architecture.
“Dream big. Set bigger goals. Believe in yourself even when no one believes in you. But, then, go for it, don’t look back.” — Uzoma Aliche.
Our years together in our bachelor program were a thrill. Studying Architecture at Abia State University was something. Our first year was many General Studies, where we went through courses like Citizenship Education I and II, Philosophy and Logic, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Freehand Sketching, etc. In our second year, we started immersing ourselves in the rubrics of Architecture. I know Mr. Aliche will remember when we lost our data room to a fire that razed down all the past works of the school. Talk about starting all over from square one. We were going on a journey with no opportunity to make references to the architectural projects of those who had gone before us in the course. At the end of the day, we could make it and graduate from our undergraduate program. After this, I left the school for the United States; however, Mr. Aliche continued with his graduate degree program at Abia State University.
Uzoma was one of the leading personalities in all the Studio Levels that we worked in. In Uzoma Aliche, you could see Leadership in action. These virtues remain with him to date. He stood out in his abilities and zest for Architecture. His intelligence was a distinguished example for all to see. People naturally gravitated towards him because of his sprite and intentional character. He always had a smile on him, and he still does. He was funny and usually cracked us up with jokes as we drew line upon line upon line. Today, Architect Uzoma Aliche has shown his true grit and worth in architecture, and he is still making himself known to the world through his designs and creative ingenuity. Uzoma Aliche is not just a friend, colleague, or former schoolmate. Mr. Aliche is more of a brother to me, and I am proud to interview him today. So, strap in and get ready for an adventure as we reveal to the world this growing Architectural icon.
Buckle up! The interview you are about to read is a long one, but trust me, it will be entertaining and worth every word by the time you are done reading it. You are about to enter the lair of the Architectural Wonder Dragon! You are about to learn about a budding icon that the world needs to learn more about. First, we will start this interview by learning about who Mr. Aliche is. Second, we will look at his architectural experience. Third, we will gain his view on some of the projects that he has worked on. Fourth, we will look at Mr. Aliche’s design process as he practices architecture. Fifth, we will then see what spawns Mr. Aliche’s creative knack and ingenuity. Sixth, we will then outline his views on Sustainable/Green Design. Seventh, we will answer the question, “How does Mr. Aliche determine his fees? Eight, we will look at his use and views of Technology? Ninth is his views on Social Media. Tenth, his thoughts on Architectural Education. Eleventh, we will survey his opinions about the future of Architecture; and twelfth, we will see some eclectic reflections from Mr. Aliche.
As we go through this interview, interspersed within this account editorial of this budding architectural icon will be his different designs and works that he has worked on in the recent and past years from his architectural portfolio. These projects will give us some perspective on some of the projects that he has worked on in time past—that will make for an enjoyable read. Enjoy the ride!
Welcoming Uzoma Aliche—Budding Architectural Icon
OaekPost (OP): Tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Arc. Uzoma Aliche?
Uzoma Aliche (UA): My name is Uzoma Aliche, a Nigerian-American. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to Richmond and Grace Aliche. Concerning my elementary school education and high school, I was public school trained. For my elementary school education, I attended Baruwa Primary School. My high school education was at the Federal Government College (FGC) Kano. I got admission into the Abia State University prestigious School of Architecture (SOA), where I obtained a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Architecture. To this point, my educational journeys have been a blessing; I have had the opportunity to live in various parts of Nigeria, spending a minimum of six years in each location. In 2016, I completed a Business and Entrepreneurial Studies certificate course at Hunter College in New York, New York. That is me in a nutshell.
OP: Why Architecture? What motivated you to venture into Architecture?
UA: As a child, I was very much interested in the arts. I would sample my artistic skills on an array of surfaces. At FGC Kano, we had an astounding arts studio. We colored a lot—watercolor on paper. As we progressed, the subject Technical Drawing was introduced. This became my new favorite. I coached some of my friends on the topic as we learned it in school in those days. Looking back now, I think I loved technical drawing because it gave form to formlessness. One can see firsthand how some simple tools can be drawn up with some degree of accuracy using nothing but simple lines and drawing tools. At this point, I still had not decided what I was going to study at university.
OP: Did you love Architecture as a child or as a youth in high school? Do you feel that your adolescent years had some influence on your current professional interests? If yes, how?
UA: I loved the arts, music, and play or theatrical arts. I performed in dramatic arts from elementary school right through my high school or secondary school years. I was the stage manager for my high school drama club. I loved visiting museums. Before I got into university, I got commissioned to do some art projects. My medium was often watercolor on cardboard paper, as we call it in Nigeria. Here in the United States, it’s cardstock paper—you get the drift. I handcrafted a lot and made greeting cards. It was right after high school that the interest in architecture started. My love for attention to detail had spiked. I began to develop an enthusiasm for buildings and structures—how they influence and affect our lives and how spaces’ perception and orientation affect us. I started to reflect on the different types of buildings and design styles I had seen throughout my travels. This curiosity and my love for arts drew my attention to architecture.
OP: What is your design philosophy?
UA: At my practice—Uzoma Aliche Building Workshop (UABW)—we have an “inside–out” approach to design. Every project is, and always is, unique—even if the design briefs are similar or perhaps the same because we believe that architecture and design are the outward reflections of the inner essence of the client. All architectural designs are different but yet unique to the client. However, for every design we create, it must clear four core beliefs: innovative, bold, imaginative, and lastly it must be unique. With our core guiding principles, we intend to aid our clients in bringing their dreams and vision to reality while also pushing for something new with every project.
OP: What is the point of difference between your practice and the practice of other architects in your class with similar experience? What makes you uniquely you in the architectural field of play?
UA: This is a tough one. While I may not be able to point out the difference between our practice and others, I will say this—For every project, the client(s) is/are my inspiration. Even after obtaining a clear design brief, we have a set of questions we ask, which is to help capture the philosophies of the clients and the ethos of the project. The aim here is to create a mind, if you will, for the design; this is where the design concept begins to take form. We see ourselves as the client’s hands, a trained instrument, if you will, whose purpose for the project is to translate their ideas into reality. We don’t try to “impose” any ideology on our clients; we help them express themselves through design.
OP: What is/are your areas of specialty or specialties? Are you into Residential, Commercial, Mixed-Use Architecture, Interiors, etc.? We want to learn about your areas of expertise?
UA: Our areas of specialization range from High-End Residential to Multi-Family Homes, Restaurants, Hotels, Places of Worship, Public spaces, Store Fronts, Landscape Architecture, and Industrial Designs. We still produce designs outside of the areas mentioned. We have an eclectic approach.
OP: Are you into Tropical Architecture, Temperate Architecture, or both? Which do you think is the most challenging?
UA: Our designs are organically developed. We ensure our project recognizes and takes into cognizance the climatic conditions of the proposed location. This helps to minimize any contrary environmental impact. Regardless of the climatic conditions, proper care is taken to handle that adequately in the ideation stage.
OP: Up until now, how many completed projects are in the quiver of your professional portfolio?
UA: Hmmm. (Smiles while trying to give a number) … Well, that’s kind of difficult to remember right now. (Laughs).
OP: What interests you most when you start a project when working with a client?
UA: The thought of starting a new project always excites my team and me. In the ideation stage, after capturing the essence of the project, it is invariably amazing to bring to reality the thoughts of the client to life via our architectural expertise.
OP: What is/are the biggest challenge(s) that you have ever faced with a client’s project?
UA: When clients don’t meet up with their end of the bargain. Sometimes people can be funny at times. There have been countless times we met and discussed with clients and prepared a program for them. We even went as far as presentations; they loved it, all requested adjustments were made. Then, the next thing you know, the “games” begin. They start looking for ways to opt-out of the project or one thing or the other. Sometimes in this business, we see clients who behave in some surprising ways.
OP: What is the average period of executing a project? What is the shortest and longest project you have ever done?
UA: Depending on the design brief and the client. A project may take about a week to months to complete. For instance, a franchise restaurant design typically takes us three days to complete. This is because there is a typical process flowchart to follow; the programming process is short. We adjust according to the location, size, and requirements of the zoning codes. For the longest project duration, we recently finished designing a five-bedroom single-family home to be in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. That took us two months. To create a final concept that led to the design took us three weeks. About five years ago, we were tapped, alongside two other firms, to submit architectural designs for a three-star hotel in Abuja, Nigeria. That took us three weeks total to get done. So you see, these things vary, and the thing about it is that—it has nothing to do with the scope of work; it has a lot to do with capturing the essence of it and delivering a product that will resonate with the client or clients.
OP: How do you go about collecting your architectural brief from your clients?
UA: Generating a design brief requires meeting with the clients or their representatives. We typically do this at a location the client is most comfortable with. Sometimes a client contacts us with an understanding of what they want to achieve or with a clear goal. However, during the programming phase, the purpose is to find out who they are and what their values are, and we try to translate and incorporate this in the design. Some clients contact us and say,—we have a problem; help us figure this out. So, we help them set a budget and align this budget with a program.
OP: How do you help your client fully understand the scope and sequence of their project? Do you usually utilize models, drawings, or computer animation?
UA: At the programming stage, we do what is called “problem seeking.” For larger clients, we do a visioning and goal-setting workshop. During this process, we first ask some design-related questions. We then write down their responses, put them on a board, and do some “dot polling.” By taking these steps, helps prioritize their needs and helps us determine what is important to them. The process also helps create a set of goals that will be incorporated into the design. Yes, we utilize 3-Dimensional (3D) models fully rendered. Visuals give clarity to the design. The client sees and feels the project—the project is given form.
“Architecture and design is the outward reflection of the inner essence of the client” — Uzoma Aliche.
OP: What is your dream project?
UA: I’ve always been interested in Strategic Development Planning (SDP) since my university days. In my undergraduate and graduate education days, part of our studio design classes was a “documentation process,” where we visit a chosen a rural, semi-urban, and urban area for an SDP study. The process involves surveying the place from an architectural and urban planning perspective. The purpose of the exercise was first to analyze and prepare a set of SDPs that consider the available local resources. Second, we determine the needs and wants of the location. Finally, we use the data to prepare a fifteen to twenty-year developmental plan and proposals through our designs focusing on improving the status quo. My interest in SDPs started from my first documentation exercise of a rural area in my third year, to the documentation of a semi-urban area in our fourth year, and an urban area for our fifth year—the first year of our M.Sc. program. The SDP design process involved coming up with organic solutions unique to the location, which could help improve the living standards and conditions of these communities and put them on a critical path to success. From that moment on, I knew that architecture is a powerful tool for building a stronger and more stable society. What is your dream project? You ask. My dream project or projects are those that transform communities. I have prepared a Strategic Development Proposal for Abia State, Nigeria, but it still sits on my desktop.
OP: What steps do you deploy in the design process, and how are they organized?
UA: The first step is to create a program. This goes beyond a design brief. We need to see and feel who they are and what their values are. Actualizing the design program may require more than one meeting with the client. These one-on-one meetings help us determine their goals and helps us capture the essence of the design. We record this and play it back in a loop in the design process. The second step is the ideation phase. We take what we learn about the client and create a conceptual design. Diagrams of sorts are developed and tinkered with like a puzzle. Once everything fits, a design proposal is put together, and a presentation is made to the client. At this point, corrections to be made are noted. These noted variations are corrected and then presented again to the client. After all the revisions are made, the next step is to prepare a set of construction documents—complete with details and code analysis. After this process, we then obtain the necessary building permits and hand them over to the client.
OP: What criteria do you use to establish priorities and make design decisions?
UA: Our approach is client-oriented. We place the client’s wants and needs at the center of the design process. Therefore, the criteria we use are based on the program already created with the client. Our design process ensures that we place the needs of the client high above anything else. With sound design principles, making decisions seems somewhat apparent during the design stage as we see solutions organically unfold.
OP: What do you commonly expect your clients to provide to make your work easier?
UA: Apart from providing all necessary documents upon request, we expect the client to be readily available. Remember that the project is for the client. We render the tools that make the project easier to visualize.
OP: How do your designs affect their construction? Are your designs always disruptive to the construction process?
UA: Design affects the construction depending on the project’s location and the resources available at that location. There could be some challenges. However, we have both front and backend experience. Meaning that sometimes, depending on the project’s scope, we do retain the services of a construction manager. When at risk, the professional steps in to assist the team (i.e., our staff and the client) to determine, somewhat early in the process, what challenges might ensue because of our proposals. As the variations are pointed out, we can then make the necessary adjustments that are needed. This is also an effective way of figuring out the project cost reasonably early in the process and helps avoid unnecessary loopholes that might occur during construction.
“All designs are expressive; even a minimalist design expresses something, for instance, in the use of materials. However, I have a “less is more” approach to design. A keen choreography of materials, forms, and spatial arrangements harmoniously juxtaposed to create beauty and evoke joyous emotions regardless of the scope. This is what we look to achieve.” — Uzoma Aliche.
OP: What role do you regularly have during the construction process? How close do you usually work with the contractors?
UA: Depending on the client, we sometimes are fully involved in the construction process as the Construction Project Manager. We put together the needed tradesmen and directly supervise the project. Stepping in as the Construction Project Manager helps in several ways. First, the response time to difficult situations is faster. Second, it helps us to sharpen our design ideologies as the construction process evolves. Thirdly, this increases our front-to-back-end understanding of the design-build process.
OP: What Inspires your creativity? What inspires you to do your best work? Do you lean to travel, music, reading, etc., to gain inspiration that impacts your creativity?
UA: Music and meditation inspire me—especially meditating in a peaceful and quiet ambiance. I like to close my eyes and feel the design. Via reflection, I love to see and feel the details—colors, lights, shades, forms patterns, and spatial flow. I seek to tap into the universal energy source. This way, I keep myself focused on the job and have it done right the first time.
OP: Would you say that your personality infuses into your architectural work? If so, how? Let us into the genius space of your creative mind?
UA: Good work ethics is fundamental. Placing the goals and objectives high—above anything else—is of utmost importance. In addition, paying attention to the non-verbal cues of the client can be very helpful.
OP: Are you highly expressive or more of a minimalist when it comes to your creative design process?
UA: All designs are expressive; even a minimalist design expresses something, for instance, in the use of materials. I have a “less is more” approach to design. A keen choreography of materials, forms, and spatial arrangements harmoniously juxtaposed to create beauty and evoke joyous emotions regardless of the scope. This is what we look to achieve. However, we have recently done some projects that were heavy with ornamentation.
OP: Are their masters down history lane who have impacted your creativity in the way you design? How and why?
UA: I love the works and personality of Mies Ludwig van der Rohe. In his father’s workshop, he started as a Stone Mason, worked as a draftsman in some architecture and design offices, and then became the Director of Bauhaus. He became a leading figure in the post-classical era, a protagonist of the minimalist movement. Never formally trained, he was a natural—a self-made Master of Architecture. Other masters are Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius (Instigator-in-Chief of the Bauhaus Movement). Mies, however, inspires me. His command in the use of materials—stone, concrete, glass, water, nature, light, and shade—is fascinating. He lets the materials speak for themselves with clarity without competing for attention.
OP: Are there current-day architectural masters that have impacted your design creativity? How and why?
UA: Santiago Calatrava. He embodies the definition of a genuine Master Architect. He is a Sculptor, an Architect, and an Engineer. He conceives his designs firstly through the eyes of a Sculptor and then resolves issues of functionality and flow as an architect. Finally, he addresses emerging structural matters as an Engineer. His works challenge me to evoke more emotional feelings in my projects. Good feelings that users can easily resonate with.
OP: What is your favorite or most inspirational place for working on your projects?
UA: The studio. That’s where the magic happens. However, inspiration can come at any time; hence, I like to take a pad and pencil with me almost anywhere I go.
OP: Do you have experience with “Green” or Sustainable Design?
UA: Yes. We are big on environmentally responsible and resource-efficient designs. However, as co-creators, it is the responsibility of Architects to protect our “workplace”—The universe.
OP: Do you regularly integrate low or no cost sustainable design strategies into your projects?
UA: Our designs are socio-economic and ecologically sustainable. We always consider and make provisions for non-fossil-fueled alternative power sources. In addition, most of our designs consider the use of energy-saving products and smart gadgets.
OP: Considering the many areas that affect the sustainable design process, how do you determine which options to pursue?
UA: The scope helps us ascertain this. A comprehensive project scope allows us to determine what areas we can effectively use technology wisely.
OP: Do your clients generally welcome sustainable design elements and technologies in their design process? Are they usually liberal when it comes to the cost of these sustainable processes?
UA: Most of our clients are informed and are generally open and accepting of sustainable designs. We take it upon ourselves to educate and explain the benefits of integrating sustainable design with technology and how it will save our clients on maintenance costs in the upcoming future. Although some may resist, we always take it upon ourselves and make provision for them in the design.
OP: How do you establish fees regarding your practice?
UA: Our fees are calculated per square unit—either per square footage or per square meter.
OP: Have you ever encountered a client who was extremely liberal financially towards having features implemented in their design? Tell us the story.
UA: (Laughs). Sure. We did a project six years ago in Nigeria. We specified Togo stone, a type of quartz, for the exterior walls. We had problems with the initial sub-contractors who could not supply the quantity we needed for the project. Midway through the project, we noticed that we were going to be short on materials. I had to jump on a plane to Togo. I went to the stone quarry, ordered 2 more truckloads of the quartz, and shuttled back to the site. Two days after, the stone arrived, and work was completed within the week. This was a $1.5 million project. The exterior finish cost about a third of the project.
OP: What is the cheapest project you have ever done?
UA: We do some projects pro-bono.
OP: What is included in your basic services and what services would incur additional fees?
UA: We design. Any additional service outside of the design scope attracts additional fees.
OP: If the project’s scope changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified? How will this be communicated to the client?
UA: If the need arises for a change order or change in scope after necessary approval is obtained, the client needs to request a change in writing. The adjustments would be noted, and the client adequately billed accordingly.
OP: What is your track record towards completing a project within the original budget?
UA: Our records are right on point. However, if the client requests changes, that will, of course, alter the original budget. The cost of which will be adequately communicated.
OP: What is the best technological advancement since hand drafting in the field of Architecture?
UA: Revit Building Information Modelling (BIM).
OP: What is the best Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) Software in the market today? What makes it the best? What are its pros and cons?
UA: There is quite a handful out there these days. There is ArchiCAD by Graphisoft, Revit by Autodesk, and 3D Max by Autodesk. For finishing and rendering, we use Photoshop. In most cases, we combine them.
OP: What is the worst CAD Software out there in the market today? What makes it the worst? What are its pros and cons?
UA: I don’t believe there is the absolute worst 3D software. I think it’s about which one you are comfortable with.
OP: What CAD Software are you conversant with? Which ones do you prefer using?
UA: AutoCAD by Autodesk.
OP: What software do you use when it comes to 3D Modelling? How proficient are you at it?
UA: Revit by Autodesk. Expert level proficiency.
OP: The world of Social Media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) is influencing many industries and the way the world does business. Has it affected Architecture? If yes, how?
UA: Yes, it definitely has. The Internet has made the world a global village. Through social media marketing, we have picked up a few clients recently. This is the new go-to place for anything. Therefore, it is imperative to take one’s business to where the market is.
OP: Do you currently have a web or social media presence? If yes, where can we find you?
UA: My professional social media presence is on LinkedIn (i.e., www.uabw.com, LinkedIn). I also have a Facebook Page where I showcase my works to my Social Media Audience (i.e., Uzoma Aliche Building Workshop).
OP: Do you think that the Social Media world will be relevant to the future of Architecture? If yes, how?
UA: Until something new comes along, I believe social media is indeed relevant to the future of Architecture. Harnessing this power is the key to unlocking the real potential of social media selling.
OP: What was your educational experience when acquiring your degree in Architecture? Any fond memories?
UA: (Laughs). I have lots of fond memories. First, it felt like we were in some “military-style” training. The curriculum was predictably rigid. We were groomed to be tough as nails. There was no time to cry even when you missed a deadline to submit design assignments or even a “jury date” (i.e., design defense before the professors). When a jury date is set, sleep is limited; personal hygiene flies out of the window—shower times are limited. We were practically working round the clock. All that seemed to matter was turning in a good, logical, creative, and presentable design. If, for any reason, your studio head or mentor catches something that isn’t right, say two weeks to final presentation, that means starting all over again—yet the time was still ticking. Talk about a pressure cooker. However, after all, is said and done, it feels rewarding to know that you put your heart into it and that a prodigious amount of work has been done.
OP: What can be done to improve the architectural curriculum for the future of those that choose to pursue this profession?
UA: This is a tough one as I have not visited a School of Architecture in a while now. However, I will say this—there is the need to incorporate the right type of technology and applications in conducting research. In addition, the curriculum should focus more on the practice of architecture.
OP: Are there some subjects that can improve the practice of Architecture after college? If yes, what subjects are these?
UA: Teaching new Architects how to be good salespeople and the fundamentals of establishing a practice.
OP: Do you think more emphasis should be placed on hand-drafting in the same way that importance is now placed on CAD Design?
UA: In a school environment, yes. CAD design can be developed individually. However, I believe that there should be more emphasis on Arts in the study of architecture. More creative thinking should be encouraged.
OP: Do you belong to any Architectural Professional Body (e.g., AIA, RIBA, NIA, etc.)? If yes, are you certified through them? What is it like being part of the professional body? If you are not a certified member, do you plan to become one?
UA: Yes, I do belong to NIA and AIA. With the AIA, there are lots of continuing education programs going on. Also, because I have had to do a lot of travel in the last five years, I am just starting the AIA certification process.
OP: What will you tell the young folk of the future who want to consider a future in Architecture? Can you give us some words of wisdom?
UA: Stay with it, steady the course; it is fun. Architecture quickly lets you know that you are onto something big from the get-go.
OP: Is the future of Architecture bleak, or is it robust? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook (i.e., the projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026) has an average growth rate for all occupations of 7 percent. Architecture is slower than average at 4%. The data provided by BLS is an indication of bleakness, do you agree? If yes, what, in your opinion, is causing this decline in the profession? How can it be reverted?
UA: Change is the only constant. To address this decline adequately, the way architecture is perceived and taught need to change pronto. However, before any change can be done, we need to study and determine what might be responsible for this and determine a way to address the concern. Architecture is no stranger to change. Architecture has always been a vehicle that drives change. Therefore, I am optimistic that the future for Architects is bright.
OP: How can we make the future of Architecture more appealing to the masses? Can you give us your take?
UA: The future of Architecture is settled; man cannot live outside of space. As long as this holds, Architecture will continually play a fundamental role in human existence. Architecture is always appealing. That appeal and its relationship to man will only continue to grow. In time past, the central focus of Architecture was the objects it created. However, Architecture and its effects are now centered on people and the environment. The focus is now on how the two can be blended harmoniously with reduced negative impact. This is a good thing, and Architects are getting better at doing this every day.
OP: How has the field of Architecture been influenced by the advent of the computer age? What future exchanges do we expect to see in the field of Cyber-Architecture?
UA: If the goal is to reduce the distance between would-be users and the end-product, the future will see the development of specialized architectural software that will pull information directly from our brains. Then using a 3D building printer, the house is placed or built up exactly how you want it—taking into consideration all parameters of design and construction.
OP: How will the future of Architecture be affected by the advent of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Age?
UA: The AI age is here to stay. The process explained in the answer provided to the previous question applies. As we speak, our devices already know our browsing habits. This is because of millions of information pulled from our browsing history. This history is often used to generate targeted advertisements. I see this same process incorporated into the future of things to come, including Architecture. I foresee a scenario where millions of information gathered will be filtered and processed for establishing a near-perfect designed to match the environment. Perhaps at this point, the roles of the Architect will change as new tools evolve.
OP: Do you have any architect mentors? If yes, how did the mentor/mentee relationship help mold who you have become?
UA: I had and still have Architects I look to and draw inspiration from. This has helped me build a successful practice regardless of my physical location.
OP: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
UA: Dream big. Set bigger goals. Believe in yourself even when no one believes in you. Go for it, don’t look back.
OP: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
UA: Our first design-build project at UABW was a real-life situation that inspired me. Whenever self-doubt creeps in, I close my eyes and remember this project and how I was given no chance at all, but after we pulled it off. After that, I realized how powerful the mind is and have learned never to underestimate my abilities.
OP: What else would you like the world to know about Architecture and your practice?
UA: Architecture is a complete discipline. It is the only profession that gives one the liberty to seek understanding in other fields of life. Every new project allows you to invent something. It gives one the autonomy to explore the creative side of the brain. Architecture demands freedom and formlessness. It gives one the liberty to be a little careless and reckless with your imaginations without prejudice. How cool is that? In summary, architecture is fun!
OP: Give us some final future advice for all architects and architects-to-be?
UA: It is essential to do your research before applying to join a School of Architecture. When you find the right school for you, approach architecture with an open mind, hold nothing back. See every design challenge as an opportunity to push yourself to new limits, even when people think your ideas are ridiculous. Accept constructive criticisms, but always believe in yourself. Confidence is the biggest and best toolkit you need to be a successful Architect or, indeed, anything else for that matter.
We are finally at the end of the journey. We want to thank Mr. Uzoma Aliche, Architect extraordinaire, for taking the time to answer the questions that we threw at him—it was a lot, I know, but with was a fun experience. We have entered his architectural lair, and we have journeyed with him through the halls of time and space to understand Architecture from his perspective. As we see, the profession is fun and as well as profitable. As he advised, should you be considering this profession, think it through and be ready to make all the sacrifices of sleepless nights and days of work and at last get to the end of your goal. For more about Mr. Aliche’s journey, be sure to make a comment or two about your thoughts. We at OaekPost and Mr. Aliche will be glad to interact with you on any questions that you may have concerning Architecture or his practice. To all who relish Architecture, be sure to check out more topics via our Architecture and Interiors category. Until the next interview, may the profession of Architecture continue to live long and thrive.
Top 5 Architectural Firms in Nigeria
Like a host of other creative industries, architecture in Nigeria has seen a gradual metamorphosis from complicated and uninspiring designs to simple–occasionally complex–but aesthetic beauties. In this piece, we explore and look into the various Architectural firms making waves in Nigeria.
By Ogbonnaya Agom-Eze, Editor-In-Chief
Welcome to the first debut article of the “Top 5 Architectural Firms” Series. In this Architectural Series, we will be reviewing the Top 5 Architectural Firms in various countries or major cities worldwide. We live in buildings; we work in buildings, we go to school in buildings, we go to functions in buildings, etc. This article series is to celebrate architects and architectural firms that are putting in work to make architecture happen worldwide. Through the profession of architecture, architects add value to our minds via the creativity and innovation of designing bespoke spaces that make us stand in awe and admiration. We will be looking at “Top 5 Architectural Firms in Nigeria” to start this series.
Where is Nigeria? Trust me; some people may not know this fact. If you are not geographically savvy, the country of Nigeria is in the Western part of Africa. To the East of Nigeria, its boundary nations are Cameroon and Chad. To the West of Nigeria, Benin. To the North is the country of Niger, and to the South is the Gulf of Guinea. The capital of Nigeria is the Federal Capital City Abuja. The largest city in Nigeria is the bustling economic hub, Lagos, in Lagos State. The country Nigeria covers a land span of 356,669 square miles (i.e., 923,768 sq. km.). This makes Nigeria the thirty-second largest nation in the world. It has the highest population in Africa, with approximately around 196M people. It is one of the strongest economies of Africa. And now you know in brief.
Like a host of other creative industries, architecture in Nigeria has seen a gradual metamorphosis from complicated and uninspiring designs to simple–occasionally complex–but aesthetic beauties. Leading this revolution are seasoned Architectural firms that are putting a modern spin on space design and use. However, rarely do we get to hear about those who are changing the narrative, one building at a time. Curated below is a list of Top 5 Architectural Firms in Nigeria that inspire a revolution in the Nigerian design ecosystem.
AD consulting was founded by one of Nigeria’s foremost female architects, Olajumoke Adenowo, in 1994. If you are an avid follower of architecture, you will remember her famously dubbed “Africa’s Starchitect” by CNN. With Adenowo at its forefront, AD Consulting has delivered grand projects that include buildings for the Abuja Film City, Guaranty Trust Bank branches, and the Nigerian Stock Exchange magnificent building. The firm’s portfolio consists of an extensive array of clients in finance, healthcare, government, oil and gas, etc. Due to the organization’s aesthetic attention to detail, AD Consulting remains a go-to for industry clients. The image above is the aerial view of their Abuja Film City Project. For more about AD Consulting and its various projects’ portfolio, be sure to check out their company website at www.adconsultinglimited.com.
The professionals at Chronos Studeos take architectural designs to a whole new level in the Nigerian ecosystem, focusing on 3D visualization. When we hear Chronos Studeos, what readily comes to mind is its involvement in the futuristic Eko Atlantic project, a mega city-in-waiting. Other exciting projects handled by the firm include Galaxy Mall in Kaduna, a first-of-its-kind state-of-the-art shopping mall inside the Kaduna metropolis. So when they say Chronos is the new cool, we believe them. The image in the picture above is a perspective view of their Eko Atlantic Project. For more about Chronos Studeos and its various projects’ portfolio, be sure to check out their company website at www.chronos-studeos.com.
This is one of those architectural firms that are not only doing high-grade work locally but are taking their genius beyond the shores of Nigeria. It is unsurprising then that this organization has a client in almost every industry, from Finance to Hospitality, Oil and Gas, Education, Recreation, Aviation, etc. Also, its list of completed projects will not in any way bore you. The evidence is in international projects like the Airport Terminal and Hotel Transit Hotel in Monrovia, Liberia, and the Roberts International Hotel in the same country. Locally, ATO Architects has delivered architectural designs for the Central Bank of Nigeria in multiple States, the 5-star Sheraton Hotel, and Kano Economic City, amongst a host of others. The picture above is a bird’s eye view perspective of their French Diplomatic Campus design. It is located at European Union Crescent, Off Constitution Ave, Central Business District, Abuja, Nigeria. For more about ATO Architects and the company’s portfolio of their various projects, be sure to check out their company website at www.atoarchitects.com.
MOE+ Art Architecture
Rarely do you find architectural companies in Nigeria trying to place aesthetics and design on the same scale; MOE+ Art Architecture is one of the select few, and boy, do they do it well. This architectural company centers most of its design on the combination of art and design. Also, it is possible to quickly tell that much creative thinking has created these great edifices by analyzing their models. Some of its art-influenced projects include the Falomo Under Bridge below the Lagos Island, Tinubu Mosque, and Rele Gallery. However, the Africa Fintech Foundry Headquarters remains its most favorite project to date. It’s a hub for the African Fintech Foundry software developers, and one can only imagine why the project owners decided to go with an art-inspired design. The picture above is a close-up perspective of their Africa Fintech Foundry Headquarters Project in Lagos, Nigeria – absolutely an artful architectonic masterpiece. For more about MOE+ Art Architecture and its portfolio of their various projects, be sure to check out their company website at www.moeaa.com.
A team of chartered architects, ECAD Architects are in the business of delivering top-notch architectural projects in diverse industries. The firm also spices things up by specializing in supporting services that include project management and quantity surveying. ECAD Architects have delivered significant projects for NBM bank and the Kwara State Governor’s house with clients at home and abroad. The image in the picture above is the front view of their NBM Bank Development Project. For more about ECAD Architects and the company’s portfolio of their various projects, be sure to check out their company website at www.ecadarchitects.com.
It was exciting reviewing all these architectural firms doing remarkably well in the West African nation and Giant-of-Africa, Nigeria. If you are an architect, architectural firm, or an architectural enthusiast who feels that I have missed an Architectural Firm doing remarkably well in Nigeria, feel free to use the comment section and suggest those architectural firms. After our Editorial Team at www.oaekpost.com reviews these architectural companies, they could make the next list of Top 5 Architectural Firms in Nigeria. The architect Arthur Erickson said some astounding words that will beautifully cap this article. He said that “Great buildings that stir the soul have always been scarce. In every case, they are uncommon, epic, products of the heart.” (Paraphrased). So, for the love of Architecture, let the beauty of buildings that inspire the mind rise. I am looking forward to reviewing the next Top 5 Architectural Firm In… Who knows? We’ll see [Smiles].
(NB. All photo credits have been given to all the architecture firms reviewed in this article. These images have been abstracted from the project or portfolio files of all the above architectural firms).